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Socio-economic differences and mental health and education of young people

After analysing perceptions of economic inequality within friendship groups among almost 13,000 British children aged 11, experts from the University of Cambridge have shown that minors who feel poorer than their peers experience mental health problems and are victims of bullying more often than those who feel financially equal to the rest of their friends. Teenagers who perceived themselves to be poorer than their peers had up to 8% lower self-esteem and 11% lower mood and were more likely to experience anxiety and behavioural problems such as anger or hyperactivity.

The pandemic and the current economic crisis are obstacles to narrowing the achievement gap between better-off and less well-off students. British students at a financial disadvantage are separated from their better-off peers by the same gap in educational attainment as 10 years ago.

According to neuroscientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, there are differences in reading difficulties and the brain signature between students of lower and higher socioeconomic status. The analysis of young people’s brain scans showed that students with higher socioeconomic status struggled with reading because of differences in their ability to combine sounds into words. In contrast, students with lower socioeconomic status had trouble naming words and letters quickly – a task involving spelling processing or visual interpretation of words and letters.

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